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Student team hones engineering, business skills with hybrid race car project

Mar 27, 2012   |   by Mark Glover   |   The Sacramento Bee

The shop is littered with sleek body panels, motors of all sizes and hundreds of exotic-looking parts that make up the seemingly mad science of auto racing.

Yet the setting is far removed from the paved speedways of Indianapolis and Daytona Beach, or Ferrari's legendary factory in Maranello, Italy.

In the rooms of Bainer Hall on the University of California, Davis, campus, students on the UC Davis Formula Hybrid Team are building a decidedly green racing machine, with an emphasis on efficiency over unbridled speed.

There's a fair chance that some of these students will someday be working for internationally known automakers, helping create fuel-efficient, alternative-powered cars for motorists worldwide.

For now, they're honing their mechanical engineering tools on a single hand-built race car … and getting a crash course in business as a bonus.

"There are numerous business possibilities," said Sean Fountain, a UC Davis senior majoring in mechanical engineering. "It goes beyond sponsorship … We're working with businesses through the entire process."

The UC Davis team is focused on completing its car for the April 30-May 3 Formula Hybrid International Competition at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.

That event is part of Formula SAE, a student design competition under the Society of Automotive Engineers and founded in 2006 by the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth.

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